Water calligraphy and tang dynasty poems

by Me!

I came back to my apartment complex one morning a few weeks ago and found this man writing water calligraphy on a pathway. It had been a while since I had seen this, and asked him if I could take his picture and he said yes. 

I asked him what he was writing and he said, "唐诗" (tang-shi) which, thanks to my Chinese class a few days before, I knew to mean a Tang Dynasty poem. I did learn one poem in my class by a famous poet named Li Bai (李白). The poem is titled 静夜思 (Jing Ye Si - approximately 'Calm Night To Think') and is about a young man far away from home, sitting in the moon light thinking about his family. I think it must be the most famous poem in China as children as young as 4 and 5 knew the poem when I have recited it. This man was writing another poem by another poet from the same time period but I had no clue who it was when he tried to tell me. 

A little girl and her mother then stopped by and watched the man write. It seemed to be soothing for him, and at the same time a form of performance art that people could stand by and watch.

The unfortunate thing about water calligraph is that depending how hot it is, the whole poem could evaporate within minutes. But I guess the poem's preservation isn't that important. Writing on the ground gives the artist as big a canvas as he could desire and also invites those around him to watch the artistry of his calligraphy.